Dreams Coming True in the Middle of a Pandemic

Hi friends!

Wow. Quarantine and the COVID-19 pandemic has been quite the experience so far. In about 10 weeks, I’ve been furloughed from every single job I held this past year (minus some dance company work which is being handled digitally). I’ve lost the opportunity to perform, to teach, to choreograph, to wish my senior dance students off to college, and to say goodbye to my students at my beloved dance studio I’ve taught at for the last three years. My unemployment is nonexistent, and I’ve not received a dime of federal financial assistance since NJ went into a state of shelter. I was in the middle of finally narrowing down testing to pinpoint all of the auto-immune responses/health issues I was having between October 2019 and March 2019. That has also been put-off for the time being due to COVID-19. Further, I even had to miss a trip to see my best friend in Chicago before she moves to Seattle. This virus has ruined every part of my life (except my health THANK GOD).

It’s been an extremely emotional, and tumultuous time for me. This pandemic has caused a great deal of panic for me, in addition to abruptly ending parts of my life I will never gain closure to. I feel robbed of experiences, memories, and the money I need to support myself and pay my bills on time.

Last Wednesday (March 13), I received some pretty horrendous news regarding the dance company I perform with in NYC. I broke down in tears at the news, and cried harder when I read,

“NYC theaters will remain closed until 2021”.

My heart sank to my feet. The impact this virus has on the dance world is severe and long-term. I think it will be at least a year until NYC’s dance and theater scene are back on their feet and running. NJ Governor Murphy even announced today that until there is a vaccine, the shelter will remain in place. I cannot even fathom how that is constitutional or supposed to work. Vaccines take at least one to two years to be created/tested. What that means for the dance world is performing arts and fitness are not going to operate how they used to ever again. What that means for life as I knew it is that life is over. I felt hopeless and directionless.

Photography by Cary Davis – Human Stories Photography

Last Wednesday, I’d had it. I’ve cried so much the last 10 weeks, and cried the hardest on Wednesday. The ONLY motivation that has kept me going this entire 10 weeks was my application to graduate school. I applied for a program to earn my MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a Concentration in Dance/Movement Therapy, and a certificate in Life/Career Coaching. I sent my application in in the middle of March, and had my virtual interviews on May 7. I was anxiously awaiting the response because if I was accepted, I was going to have a direction. A goal. A purpose!

I woke up on March 14 to my phone buzzing. A mental health facility I applied to the night before was calling me regarding my application! The first call back in WEEKS. I landed an interview (which is digital and being held tomorrow morning), and after I got off of the phone, I called my mom, and then went downstairs tell my dad. As I walked up to my dad’s office, my phone “pinged” with an email regarding my application status was updated.

I opened the email, and BOOM! There it was in all of it’s glory and grace, an acceptance letter into the school, into my program – complete with a SCHOLARSHIP! It was as if the skies opened up and poured this life-changing shower of gifts and blessings over me all in the matter of minutes! A possible new job, more education, and financial aid!? I couldn’t believe it, and I am STILL in shock about it!

Becoming a Dance/Movement Therapist has been a goal of mine for the last 8 years! Dance/Movement Therapy is the reason I chose the undergraduate program I attended because they offered a minor study in it. The program I will be completing will allow me to graduate as a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Registered Dance/Movement Therapist, and a Board Certified Life Coach!

I want to work with veterans/military personnel, and women who’ve survived trauma. I want to write two books – a memoir about my life and experience with body-based trauma and movement expression, and a research-based book on how movement and dance heals the traumatized body and mind more effectively than traditional talk therapy. The beginning of all of these goals starts with this Master’s education, and I just CANNOT BELIEVE I AM GOING TO ACTUALLY DO IT!

This whole experience has confirmed to me this is what I am supposed to do with my life. I always knew it too, but this chain of events has confirmed to me I am in the right place in my life, and I will be able to help a lot of people. I have a direction, I have big goals, and I have a big purpose for this lifetime. I cannot wait to begin!

PS: My hair is red now this isn’t a filter

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. Life is so strange and horrific and wonderful all at the same time. To me, it’s truly a miracle all of these amazing, wonderful things came to me during this time of extreme panic and no direction. I think the biggest lesson this taught me is to remain positive. There is light and hope at the other end of this pandemic.

I hope you are all healthy and safe! I will keep you all posted about this new job, and updates on schooling as they become available. Sending out lots of light and love to everyone. Stay safe!

xoxo

Future R/DMT LPC

NEDA Awareness Week Show and Positive Mental Health Movement for Coping with COVID-19

Hi lovely readers. It’s been a minute. February was a very busy month, with three shows, and lots of big changes in my personal life. This post is to highlight some of that. However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need to raise awareness about mental health and suicide rates – which at desparate times like these – begin to rise. People are laid off, can’t feed their families or pay their bills… anyone struggling with their mental health could be negatively impacted by this pandemic in a very bad way.

As someone who has struggled with her mental health throughout her life, I find the need to spread some positivity during this crisis, and let you all know about some cool things the NYC dance company I dance for did back in February. At the end here, I also want to give you some suggestions on movement-based activities you can do while you are quarantined and/or if you are struggling with your mental health and being stuck inside is driving you insane.

I currently dance for Borne Dance Company, which is a New York City based dance company who’s mission is to bring awareness to mental health and destigmatize eating disorders. The last week in February is the National Eating Disorder Association’s (NEDA) National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Borne Dance Company celebrates the end of our season with a showcase during Eating Disorder Awareness Week. We host other artists, singers, performers, dancers, poets, and musicians who gather to play a show.

Admission to the show was donation-based, and 80% of the proceeds were donated directly to NEDA after our show weekend was over. This year, Borne performed a new 25 minute piece titled “Bound“, which explored themes of isolation, and showcased the negative thoughts and coping mechanisms we hang onto as people.

The work was well-received, and we generated a lot of donation money through everyone’s generous donations. It was such a special day, and one of those full-circle life moments for me. Eight years ago when I was sick with anorexia, I never thought I’d be dancing professionally in NYC, let alone in a show with a company that cares so deeply about raising awareness about eating disorders.

PC: Human Stories Photography NYC for Borne Dance Co.

This all being said, it is always important to check-in on your friends, family, and loved ones all times of the year. Especially now, however, during this crisis, we need to keep checking in with those in our lives who are struggling, were struggling, or who we suspect might be struggling. Not just check-in on their physical health, but check-in on their mental health. Ask how their feeling, and if the answer is not positive, offer ways you can be there for them. Phone calls, video chats, text messaging – any way you can extend a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear, do it. It could save their life.

90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by movement of the spine

Dr. Roger Sperry

Now if you yourself are not feeling your best, or you want to find ways to help someone you love feel better, here is a list of ways to use movement to improve your mental health during this time of isolation and quarantine. Dr. Roger Sperry says 90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by movement of the spine, so staying active and mobile during this time is crucial for maintaining positive mental health. Here are some fun movement activities you can do solo or with a friend/partner (maintaining social distance of course) that could help increase/maintain your mental health.

  1. Exercise! Schedule specific times during the day or throughout the week dedicated solely to moving your body. Whether you find a yoga routine online, an at-home HIIT workout, or some cardio – find time to keep your body engaged throughout the week!
  2. Dance party! Maybe you’re cleaning the house, or maybe you’re really stressed and tight from sitting at your home computer and working from home. Turn on your favorite tunes and start grooving! Even if for five minutes! Dance like nobody’s watching, or have your family members join you! I bet you will be smiling within the first two minutes. Dancing increases blood flow, and seratonin (the happy hormone!) levels!
  3. Stretch! Ok dance and exercise isn’t your thing? Maybe Google some light stretching exercises you can do at home to stimulate blood flow, and let your muscles lengthen gently! It’s amazing what a little bit of light stretching can do to improve your mood, and how you feel physically.
  4. Play with a ball! If you have children, or a partner or roommate, take five minutes and just toss a ball back and forth to each other. You don’t have to have a lot of skill to do this, and it will get your blood flowing and you can even wear latex gloves so you don’t have to physically touch the ball! Don’t have a partner? Play fetch with a pet OR play wall-ball where a wall is your surface to pass from!
  5. Play with your pets! If you are a pet owner, you can take your dogs for a walk, or cuddle or play with your cats, hamsters, bunnies, etc.! Pets are the best for comfort, and they are an amazing excuse to go outside and talk a calm walk down the street 🙂
  6. Create! If you are an artist, dancer, or person who can’t sit still, try creating a dance or movement flow organically. Take some time to move and create, just like you would sit and create a painting, craft or song! You can keep it private, or show it online/to friends or family (following pandemic guidelines of course). You might surprise yourself with your creativity and what you will make!

These are just a few simple ways you can use movement to improve your own state of mental health, or help engage a family member or friend who might be struggling at this time. So much healing can come from simply moving your body, and it will also help pass the time while we wait for equillibrium and health to return to our society.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this post brought some positivity into your morning, afternoon, or evening (whenever this post reaches you!). Stay positive, healthy, and moving my friends! I hope to connect more soon.

xoxo

Why You Shouldn’t Compare Your Body to an “Instagram Fitness Model”

Hi everyone,

In wake of my Arbonne 30 Days to Healthy Living, I’m inspired to write this piece about the importance of recognizing what we see on the internet as staged, superficial, and anti-reality. I wanted to write this article a while back, but because it is January and this month “diet culture” becomes synonymous with “New Year’s Resolutions”, I want everyone to keep some things in mind while they strive for their 2020 goals – specifically if they are related to health and fitness.

Also as a disclosure – this article is in no way shaming men and women who are dedicated to health and fitness, and/or those who make their business/money from that online. This is for all hard-working people who care deeply about their health and physical fitness, who feel they cannot “live-up” to the standards they see on social media.

Let’s get one thing straight – Instagram is a galaxy of humans young and old wanting to display their BEST selves to all of their peers, colleagues, and family members. Yes, people post for themselves, but deep down people post for validation for the things they are doing. As a member of this generation, I don’t see anything wrong with it. Social media has completely changed the course of online marketing, business, and self-promotion. If I have a great photo of myself, or something I did, ate, drank, saw – I will probably post it somewhere online.

That being said, do I ever post photos of myself I feel ugly in? Of course not. Do I untag myself from friends’ photos I don’t like of myself? Of course I do. No one wants to be seen in their “worst light”. I will add, a lot of the time we are all our own worst critics, so many times what we feel is “ugly”, we don’t actually look ugly. However, the point is, people post the best version of themselves online. And there is nothing wrong with doing that.

Nonetheless, the greatness of social media comes with a sleu of other issues. Seeing everyone’s best version of themselves online every day, at any time of the day can become mentally and emotionally exhausting. It can make you feel like you’re not “doing enough” or “being enough” – either for others, or even yourself. Being recovered from anorexia, I see my favorite dancers and fitness professionals online everyday and think to myself,

“I am not doing as much as their doing. That’s why I haven’t reached their level of success.”

Or their level of beauty. Or their level of fitness, technicality, etc.

It makes me feel terrible if I don’t keep my thoughts in check – If I don’t sit back and take a second to recognize that these images and videos I am seeing are not that person 24/7. No one can uphold the “Instagram standard” every day, 24 hours a day, every day of the week. We are all human and we are all FLAWED (physically, emotionally, mentally – in all capacities). And flaws can be and are beautiful too.

Here is an example. Before I started my 30 Days to Healthy Living, here is an image I took of myself on Snapchat immediately following a HIIT workout.

The image depicts me at a moment where I felt “fit”, at an angle where I felt “showed off” my body in a great way. I had compression pants on and felt put together. The lighting was good, and photo editing apps make filtering the photo to be more appealing really simple and easy.

Is that what my body looks like all the time? No. Now here are some images of me first thing in the morning, before I ate anything, PMSing, hadn’t worked out in three days.

I took these images the first day I started my cleanse last week. These photos were snapped three weeks after the gym photo – totally unrelated to each other. These photos of me I do not like. I wouldn’t really think to post them anywhere because I do NOT like the way I appear in them. Also, you’d think if these were a “before and after” shot, the more recent photos would be first and the gym photo would be most recent.

Reality is – a good angle and good lighting can make anyone appear “better”. Im also not being self-deprecating. I love my body, and I’m a firm believer that muscular definition wouldn’t appear in photographs if it wasn’t truly there. Meaning, the main way to look muscular is to have muscle. So if you see muscular definition, it’s because it’s there. That being said, good lighting and nice filtering can enhance the definition of our muscles or our appearance. We can smooth out fine lines/wrinkles, shrink waistlines, make our skin appear tanner or fairer, etc. Heck, I even increased the color saturation on these photos before I put them into this article!

So next time you’re scrolling through Instagram and see your favorite dancers, athletes, models, whoever – remember their life is not always that glamorous. It is not always picture perfect, with a friend on standby ready to snap gorgeous “candid” photos of you at your best angles in your best light. Instagrams are carefully curated by each owner, and they are meant to display us “living our best lives”.

Wherever you are in your journey – of life, fitness, health, and your goals – you are exactly where you are supposed to be. You are ENOUGH, and no one is uniquely like you, even if their Instagram makes you feel like you’re not in the gym enough/working hard enough. Comparison is the killer of all dreams, and never compare yourself to others because of what you see. Everything online is surface level.

Xoxo

My Arbonne 30 Days to Healthy Living Cleanse

Happy New Year beautiful people!

2020 is here, and it is a fresh decade! New beginnings are all around us! I wanted to share with you I recently joined Arbonne as an Independent Consultant, and will be completing their 30 Days to Healthy Living cleanse for the month of January! I’ve been debating on whether or not I wanted to invest in this cleanse since August. However, recent problems with my health and my stomach have inspired me to finally dive in.

My goals for this cleanse are to reset my gut health, reduce my bodily inflammation (hopefully helping the health issues I am dealing with), cut back on my dependency on sugar/coffee, sleep better, and reduce my anxiety. I also would like to lose about 5 pounds.

All of the symptoms and health conditions I’ve been dealing with, the 30 Days cleanse targets to resolve. The cleanse is supposed to reduce symptoms and signs of physical toxicity. Physical Toxicity is the state in which the body accumulates toxins from the different foods and alcohols we consume. These toxins build-up in the gut, and over time cause the body to be in a state of physical toxicity. The symptoms can include/are not limited to some or all of the following:

Acne/skin issues, bloating, insomnia, anxiety, inflammation, nausea, mood swings, PMS, difficulty concentrating, difficulty losing weight, brain fog, bad breath, low energy, headaches/migraines, fatigue.

Arbonne discusses the cleanse as a “cellular reset” – unclogging the “kitchen sink”- the “kitchen sink” being your gut. The cleanse eliminates inflammatory foods and food groups and sugar, and supplements your diet with clean protein (no sugar, gluten, dairy, animal byproducts, soy, or GMOs) and clean caffeine replacements; increases your fiber intake; and detoxifies your gastrointestinal tract.

They provide all of the nutritional products and supplements (you can choose your flavors), and provide you with support the entire 30 days. You’re given recipes, meal preparation tips, food shopping lists, tips for maintaining the cleanse while you travel, or if you go out to eat. You’re even added to a Facebook group with other women and men who are doing this month’s challenge with you, so if you don’t have a partner to do the cleanse with in real life, you have an online support system. The Facebook group is monitored by a registered dietician who can also help answer any questions you might have.

I spent only $222 (with free shipping!) for this cleanse (that’s the price as an Independent Consultant), and was also gifted over $200 of free products for signing up. I am trying two of their skincare products (their RE9 Facial Cleanser and RE9 Nightly Resurfacing Pads), their Metabolism Support powder, and will receive a free gym bag. I am most excited to try their protein out! I haven’t found a clean, vegan protein powder that was affordable in a long time.

I am looking forward to eating clean and feeling better in 2020, and I have a really good feeling this cleanse will help me and help my health issues that are not getting better.

I will be taking progress pictures along to the way, so stay tuned for a follow-up!

If you are interested in the cleanse, you can take a peak at my shop which I will link below. If you have ever completed the 30 Days to Healthy Living, I would love to hear your feedback and results.

http://juliaobrien.arbonne.com

xoxo